Next month Dalkey Archive will be publishing Demolishing Nisard by Eric Chevillard, one of the more interesting French writers to have come up on my radar lately.
We covered this one at The Quarterly Conversation a while back, long before the book was slated for U.S. publication, in François Monti’s piece on “France’s Foremost Absurdist.”
Since Mourir m’enrhume (Dying Gives Me a Cold) in 1987, Chevillard has published eighteen books, only two of which—Palafox and The Crab Nebula—have been translated into English. One doesn’t need more than a sentence to sum up the argument of a novel by Eric Chevillard: inventing a simple idea and then exhausting it over the course of 150 to 250 pages. His latest novel, Sans l’Orang-Outan (Without the Orangutan) was an affair as straightforward as its title implies: imagine a world where the last orangutan died and figure out the impact. Almost each paragraph develops a new idea, a new possible outcome or consequence in an extremely wide spectrum of situations. This is neither an ecological fable nor a scientifically oriented fiction: Chevillard is France’s foremost absurdist, a modern day surrealist who revels in using popular catchphrases or clichés—here the “butterfly effect” that some suppose will follow the disappearance of a species—and subverts them by means of his imagination and sense of humor.